Reflecting on worth of AP courses

As first semester comes to a close, students are starting to think about finals and their future in their classes.

After the No Homework Night that took place during the second term, students have been encouraged to think about their futures, whether it be in college or in Stevenson, and the difficulty of the classes that they must take.

“I think that students should take the classes that suit them,” math teacher Paul Kim said. “Whether that means a lower level class [or a higher level class], all classes should be a challenge, and students should be honest to themselves.”

Stevenson students generally believe this to be true, according to Kim. However, he also believes that a lot of students overstretch and don’t do as well as they would have if they had taken what they were comfortable with.

“I had five AP classes,” Mahnoor Baig ’18 said. “But I dropped two of them because it was just too much.”

Many, like Kim, warn about this. Overstretching often isn’t the best way to go about things Baig added. Both Kim and Baig agree that this mentality, that more AP classes are better, may not be the best one.

“Because others see it people think that they can handle it too, but they can’t handle it,” Kim said. “I mean there are kids in the building that can take six or seven AP classes, be involved, and help other kids, and be a peer tutor, and volunteer, it’s amazing, they have capacity to do it. But there are other students that don’t but see that and want to keep up with the Joneses, and they’re going to get in trouble. You have to be honest about yourself.”

Seeing the other students doing so much often inspires other students to act and push themselves farther. However, according to Kim, this can lead to the student not doing well because it may not be at their level.

Nevertheless, the reputation of being at the top of the class with the most AP classes is often not the driving force of students. Often it is their future that they are worried about.

“I took a total of 11 AP classes in Stevenson,” Natalie Wu ’16 said. “I wanted to challenge myself and place out of the introductory courses.”

Introductory classes in colleges can sometimes be skipped by students that have gotten good scores on the AP exams. This is often desirable because, as Wu got to experience, there may be a chance for the student to pay less tuition

However, this is not always the case. More elite colleges are starting to not give college credits for taking AP classes. This is what Wu faced at Johns Hopkins—but she still got some credits.

“Even though they may not be giving credit for AP classes, these classes help a lot because there are placement tests that the colleges give instead,” Kim said.

Kim believes that the AP courses, while they may not give college credits, can lead to enrollment in higher programs through placement tests.

Yet many students–like Baig–believe that because they took an AP course, they should be able to get some sort of credit in college. Kim agrees that the AP test is well written for the most part and is a good determinator of the student’s understanding of the class.

While colleges may not accept the credits, AP classes are viewed by both students and teachers as a good precursor to college level classes.

“I wouldn’t have been able to taken Calculus in college,” Wu said. “With 100 or more kids in a lecture hall three times a week, it’s very different compared to AP calculus at Stevenson.”

Wu thinks that AP classes help ingrain the habits that are necessary in college. Including getting help from teachers outside of class, trying to find resources on the student’s own time and handling the rigor of difficult classes.

“They might not help lower costs or elevate the student to a sophomore standing in college,” said Kim. “But AP classes do prepare students.”